Senior Send-Off: San Diego’s Chris Anderson

Chris “Young Flash” Anderson came to the Toreros without much fanfare. Along with walk-on Johnny Dee, he wasn’t much more than another decent player with some potential as the program struggled to bring in highly-regarded recruits after regressing thanks to a point shaving scandal and no encore after their surprise 2008 NCAA Tournament appearance. But despite his small size, Anderson was nearly ustoppable as a Torero, and he will graduate as one of the finest assist men in program history.

Jan 4, 2014; Provo, UT, USA; San Diego Toreros guard Christopher Anderson (00) dribbles the ball against the Brigham Young Cougars in the first half at Marriott Center. Mandatory Credit: Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

Anderson was actually a highly decorated player coming out of Canyon High School in Anaheim, California. He was named the Orange County Player of the Year his senior season with some eye popping numbers at 21 points, 8 assists, and 8 rebounds per game. With the Toreros coming off a disastrous 6-24 season, Anderson joined a large freshman class for the 2011-12 season that hoped to restore the program’s success.

There was a wide open gap for Anderson to make an immediate impact in the assists category. The year prior, the Toreros had lacked a true court general and suffered for it. Darian Norris and Matt Dorr had been the only sources of assists, and each averaged fewer than 3 per game. By the time Anderson reached campus, Dorr had graduated and Norris was not expected to be the answer.

As the most decorated freshman in the recruiting class, Anderson had first crack at filling the void at guard. And he did it in a big way. The dymanic duo of Johnny Dee and Anderson made an immediate impact as the two freshmen to emerge from the young group. Dee led the team in scoring, and Anderson led the team in assists and finished second on the team in scoring. His 156 assists for the year blew away the team-high 85 Norris had the year before.

Dee garnered much of the attention and honors thanks to his prolific shooting and emergence from nowhere as a walk-on player, but Anderson was clearly the “glue guy” the Toreros needed. The team improved by 7 wins that season, and continued to grow in the coming years with Anderson and Dee leading the way. The next year, the Toreros climbed closer to .500 improving by another three wins. Anderson started every game, and his assists number shot up to 5.7 per game to go along with 9.4 points per game. The Toreros shocked BYU in the WCC Tournament and pushed nationally ranked St. Mary’s into overtime in the next round, proving they were vastly improving and were starting to be able to hang with the top tier teams.

Anderson’s sophomore season also gave us one of his finest scoring moments as a Torero. While he never found the elite scoring ability he had in high school and focused on distributing the ball, he always had the slashing ability that allowed him to use his small stature to weave through bigger defenders and reach the basket. This was on full display when he went the length of the court on the road at LMU and put up a circus-shot to win the game. The play garnered national attention, and will always be one of the finest plays and most dramatic wins in program history.

The breakout performance by the team in Las Vegas and the breakout assist effort by Anderson had the Toreros firmly entrenched as a team to watch entering Anderson’s junior season. He and Dee were now bonafide stars and among the best guard duos in the conference. They had formed a close bond by then, with Dee’s shooting and ability to move off screens to find the open shot perfectly complementing Anderson’s ability to time the perfect pass.

In the 2013-14 season, the Toreros had a number of milestone moments that were thanks to Dee and Anderson leading the way. The Toreros shocked nationally ranked Gonzaga during the regular season for the first time in years, finished over .500, and made the postseason for the first time since 2008. Their run to the CIT Tournament quarterfinals was the deepest postseason run in program history. Once again Anderson was brilliant putting up a whopping 216 assists and adding 10.3 points per game. The assists was a single-season record for the program, and it gave Anderson the career record with a full year of eligibility left.

While his senior season was not what the team had hoped for as the Toreros dipped back under .500 and missed the postseason, Anderson added one more brilliant season to his resume. He tacked on another 197 assists to his career record, and he added 58 steals which gave him the career record in that category as well. His scoring dipped to 7.7 points per game, but by then he was firmly entrenched as a key leader on the court who could distribute the ball and slash to the hoop only when needed. He also did an admirable job improving his shooting, and he was able to provide scoring when needed even if it never reached high level.

While the record never reflected his greatness, Anderson was one of the finest guards to ever come through the program. He was overshadowed by the high-scoring of Dee, but in terms of a pure floor general who ties the team together, Anderson was one of the best. He could have let his size hold him back, but he used it to his advantage and never hindered him. He will be remembered as a wizard with the ball who was fearless in the face of bigger competition. Pairing him with Dee was the perfect complement, and the duo will always be remembered for their contributions to the program. They brought the Toreros out of a dark period, and put them back on the road to success as both exemplary players and student-athletes. It’s been a pleasure to watch them, and we may never see as special a duo again at San Diego.